The Chicago Fire returned to the form that has made their Soldier Field home a fortress throughout the MLS years, extending the Colorado Rapids' dismal away record with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.
After Andy Herron gave the Fire a first-half lead, the Rapids leveled the match early in the second half through Alain Nkong, but Thiago answered shortly thereafter to send the Fire on their way to a deserved three points. It was the fifth loss in five away matches this season for the Rapids.
From the opening touch of the first half the Fire appeared intent on proving that their last two home performances, identical 3-0 home losses to New England and the MetroStars, were not going to set the tone for the home calendar this season.
After the last loss, Fire coach Dave Sarachan made a number of changes to his lineup, including starting Tony Sanneh and rookie Gonzalo Segares in central defense. That meant that Jim Curtin's ever-present streak stopped at 70 consecutive appearances (and 68 consecutive starts).
The Fire broke through in the 13th minute, as Herron scored on a left-footed blast off of a nice feed from Fire midfielder Thiago. The Brazilian beat a defender and drew another to him before slipping the ball for Herron to drive home with authority. For the Fire, it was their first home goal since April 16 and the first for the team in 214 minutes.
The home side then nearly doubled their advantage just after the half-hour when Cannon made a fine stop on Lubos Reiter, who sent a powerful side-winder volley goalward off a Nate Jaqua cross that the Colorado 'keeper did well to hold on to.
Without midfield general and U.S. international Pablo Mastroeni, the Rapids struggled to put together a coherent attack in the opening half. They were apparently content to defend in depth and try to find striker Jeff Cunningham with long ball, but the Fire were well aware of the threat he posed.
But the Rapids came out quickly after the break and drew level after just four minutes. Midfielder Nkong scored his first MLS goal on a well-executed give-and-go with Cunningham that left the Cameroon international all alone in front of Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton, and he buried his shot into the upper corner.
Yet it took the Fire just six minutes to regain the lead. Reiter found Herron with a long pass and he knocked a first-time pass across the penalty area to Thiago. His first touch was excellent, and he knocked the ball past Cannon (56k | 384k) inside his right post with the second.
Cannon once again saved the Rapids in the 65th minute, when Justin Mapp whipped in a long cross that found the 5-foot-7 Thiago unmarked at the top of the six-yard box, but Cannon pushed it over the crossbar at full stretch.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Thiago (Chicago Fire)
Toby True is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Colorado Rapids (2-6-1) vs. Chicago Fire (4-4-1)
May 21, 2005 -- Soldier Field
CHI -- Andy Herron 1 (Thiago 1, Nate Jaqua 1) 13
COL -- Alain Nkong 1 (Jeff Cunningham 1) 49
CHI -- Thiago 2 (Andy Herron 1, Lubos Reiter 1) 55
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Ricky Lewis, Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Eric Denton (Wolde Harris 75), Luchi Gonzalez, Kyle Beckerman, Guy Melamed, Alain Nkong, Jeff Cunningham, Jean Philippe Peguero.
Substitutes Not Used: Terry Cooke, Matt Crawford, Leo Cullen, Byron Foss.
TOTAL SHOTS: 5 (Alain Nkong 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 21 (Alain Nkong 6); OFFSIDES: 7 (Jean Philippe Peguero 4); CORNER KICKS: 0; SAVES: 7 (Joe Cannon 7)
Chicago Fire -- Zach Thornton, Logan Pause, Tony Sanneh, Gonzalo Segares, Ivan Guerrero, Nate Jaqua, Chris Armas, Thiago, Justin Mapp, Andy Herron (Chris Rolfe 81), Lubos Reiter (Jesse Marsch 84).
Substitutes Not Used: Chad Barrett, Scott Buete, Samuel Caballero, Jim Curtin, Kelly Gray, David Mahoney, Jack Stewart.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Lubos Reiter 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (Lubos Reiter 3); FOULS: 19 (Lubos Reiter 5); OFFSIDES: 2 (Andy Herron 1, Justin Mapp 1); CORNER KICKS: 11 (Thiago 6); SAVES: 2 (Zach Thornton 2)
Misconduct Summary: ,br>
COL -- Eric Denton (caution; Reckless Foul) 41
COL -- Luchi Gonzalez (caution; Professional Foul) 63
COL -- Nat Borchers (caution; Reckless Foul) 76
CHI -- Gonzalo Segares (caution; Reckless Foul) 78
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee's Assistants: -Greg Barkey; Kenneth Kaplan
4th Official: Michael Kennedy
Time of Game: 1:54
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-62-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.